Erdogan threatens to block Sweden’s NATO bid over Quran burning protests

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Sweden o Monday that it should not expect support for its bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) following a series of protests in Stockholm over the weekend. 

The demonstrations, led by anti-Islam activist Rasmus Paludan and pro-Kurdish groups, included burning the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.

Erdogan strongly criticized Paludan’s actions, stating that they insulted everyone, particularly Muslims. 

He also took issue with the Swedish authorities for allowing the protest to take place outside the embassy, which he referred to as an attack on 85 million Turkish citizens.

In a statement, Erdogan said, “It is clear that those who allowed such vileness to take place in front of our embassy can no longer expect any charity from us regarding their NATO membership application.”

The Turkish President also expressed his concerns with the pro-Kurdish protests in Sweden, in which demonstrators waved flags of various Kurdish groups, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

Erdogan criticized Sweden for not banning symbols associated with the PKK, which is considered a terrorist group in Turkey, the European Union, and the United States, and stated that this would prevent support for Sweden’s entry into NATO. “So you will let terror organizations run wild on your avenues and streets and expect our support for getting into NATO. That’s not happening.”

Turkey has been blocking the Nordic nations’ historic bids to join NATO, stating that they must first address Turkey’s security concerns. 

Swedish officials have stated that the country’s Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and allows individuals broad rights to express their opinions publicly but that inciting violence or hate speech is not permitted.

Individuals planning a public gathering in Sweden must seek permission from the police. The police can only deny permission in rare cases, such as when public safety is at risk.

Top Swedish officials have stated that freedom of expression is crucial to democracy while criticizing Paludan’s actions as disrespectful and ones they disagree with.

Anti-Islam activist Paludan, who holds both Danish and Swedish citizenship, has established far-right parties in both countries that have failed to win any seats in national, regional, or municipal elections. In last year’s parliamentary election in Sweden, his party received just 156 votes nationwide. 

His Quran burning sparked counter-protests in Turkey over the weekend, where demonstrators burned his photograph and a Swedish flag.


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